By Eve Kaufman ’20
For the upcoming spring semester, Chris Kraus, critically acclaimed for her work “I Love Dick,” was selected to be the Mary Routt writing chair. Created in 1987, the Routt chair was initially intended to give exceptional journalists the chance to teach Scripps students the art of writing, channeling the nominees’ own creative styles. Over thirty years later, this position has transformed, and is now open to a wide range of authors, all of whom use creative expression as a voice to represent various groups and genres. Kraus is certainly no exception.
Her work is what people “want contemporary literature to look like” — bold, brash, and creative — while still remaining unapologetic for her feminism and radical self acceptance. What does act as the exception in this instance, however, is the committee’s choice to pick such a well-known figure. After all, Kraus does have an Amazon Prime show out now. In this case, however, it is her prior relationship to Scripps, between presenting in past events to forming friendships with the faculty, that solidified her chairship. This is in addition to her previous professorial experience at the European Graduate School in Los Angeles.
Kraus’ class is focused on the topic of investigative fiction. This translates into the blurring of boundaries between fiction and non-fiction. It is an imaginative and “highly personal” lens with which to perceive and relay information, transforming the auto-biography into a crafted work. This sort of style is perfectly attuned to Kraus’ own strengths as a writer. “I Love Dick” was written in such a manner, exploring a series of true events through Kraus’ internal narrative. Kraus employs certain creative interpretations to the world around her, no longer allowing for such clear differentiations of reality and not. Her writing gives deep insights into her Boheme life, while simultaneously subverting roles and daring to explore her identity and womanhood.
The events orchestrated by the chosen author in tandem to the class are also an important aspect of the Routt chair. Every Spring, at varying points in the semester, the nominee invites two peers to speak at Scripps. This gives students, and the audience as a whole, better insight into the author’s interests, work, and achievements. Kraus will be hosting her events on the evening of March 5 and March 12.
Kraus plans to co-host the first event with Kevin Vennemann, a professor of the Scripps German department who, as it so happens, translated “I Love Dick” into German. The duo will introduce Heike Geissler as she discusses her new book, “Seasonal Associate.” The work gives insight into the life of an individual in between projects, working at an Amazon packing plant to make ends meet.
Next, Kraus will invite Reynaldo Rivera to present, as he showcases his photos documenting the Latinodrag scene of LA in the 1980s-1990s. Both can be related back to Kraus’ own work, showing personal narratives through creative mediums, while also exploring different facets of lives not commonly tread.
This thereby accomplishes what the Mary Routt Chair program set out to do; give Scripps students the ability to discover the works and minds of individuals that the exist outside of Claremont. Kraus’ lens into Los Angeles, feminism, and writing is certainly unique and will complement Scripps’ academics quite well this spring.